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In reading some recent credit union commentary, including a June 28 column by Paul Gentile, I couldn’t help but think of the words of John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself.” While Donne, in declaring that “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” was writing about our interconnectedness as human beings, I feel compelled to stick up for what I would call the interconnectedness of financial services. When those in our industry write that NAFCU shouldn’t work with banking groups in Washington for the common good of credit unions and all financial institutions, I have to wonder: what are they smoking? You can talk all you want about how credit unions should boycott banks, but the reality is banks are here, and they are here to stay. Yes, credit unions need to protect their interests, but they need to do so while coexisting within the larger “continent” of financial services. So while I very much respect Mr. Gentile’s opinions on many issues, I strenuously disagree with his calling “bizarro” NAFCU’s reaching out to other financial groups-including the community bankers-in order to build a coalition for responsible data security legislation. All financial institutions need legislation that will protect them and their members (or customers) from data breaches and the cost of making good on those breaches. Just as all financial institutions benefited from bankruptcy reform legislation and would benefit from a comprehensive regulatory relief package. Make no mistake, the banking trade groups, and some banks, continue to attack the credit union community. So how can we work with these organizations, fully aware that they want to end credit unions “as we know them?” The answer is, first, that we talk to them, as I and others have done with banker groups. Second, we sometimes hold our noses and work with others to get the things done that credit unions need to better serve their members. Most legislation is the result of consensus and compromise. For Mr. Gentile or others to claim that financial associations should not work together to achieve passage of data security legislation, or that NAFCU’s SVP of Government Affairs Dan Berger shouldn’t work with other financial services lobbyists, is to ignore the realities of Washington. Either you engage and have a seat at the table during negotiations or you get left out of the deal-making that inevitably occurs as part of the legislative process. A good example of this process at work is labor groups teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support comprehensive immigration reform. Our M.O. is really pretty simple and straightforward: Stay true to and vigorously defend the core characteristics that make credit unions what they are-the tax-exemption, our not-for-profit status and the member-owned, cooperative philosophy, to name a few-but also be willing to work with our “enemies” when it’s in our members’ overall best interests to do so. Most recently, we have done so with respect to data security, where NAFCU’s Dan Berger and Debbie Kwon-Moore have been repeatedly identified as having taken the lead in lobbying on behalf of all credit unions for a bill that would exempt credit unions and other financial institutions from onerous new regulations and require that retailers reimburse financial institutions for the cost of issuing new credit cards. There is no enmity among financial services lobbyists in the pursuit of this bill, which everyone recognizes its needed to better the American consumer. Would credit union purists not have NAFCU work with other financial services groups in attempting to get this legislation passed? It would be akin to cutting off our noses to spite our faces. The ongoing discussions we’ve had with U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) on the issue of credit union conversions comes to mind. If NAFCU had not been willing to invite Mr. McHenry to our Congressional Caucus last September, and members of the NAFCU Board, staff and I had not been willing to sit down and talk to him and his staff numerous times-both before and after Caucus-there is no doubt that the recent hearing held on his legislation would have been much more grueling for NCUA-and more to the bankers’ liking. Everyone who was there knows that the bankers came away from the hearing very upset that they didn’t get to see the fireworks they had fully expected. Instead, we had a more cordial examination of the issue, one that was paved by many meetings ahead of time with Mr. McHenry by Marc Schaeffer, John McKechnie and Dan Berger. Had we refused to engage with him as others did, the results would have been disastrous. As Mr. McHenry himself has publicly stated, NAFCU’s reaching out paved the way for a constructive hearing. Finally, don’t interpret NAFCU’s lack of public grandstanding on what should be contained in the final regulatory relief package as kowtowing to the bankers. Instead, NAFCU has aggressively lobbied for numerous provisions in the package and said repeatedly that it will insist on maintaining parity among the charters when it comes to issues like the member business lending cap. NAFCU has also honored the wishes of House Financial Services Committee members and staff who asked that their informal proposals to the Senate be kept out of the press. We have shared, and continue to share, our concern with members and staff of the House Financial Services Committee, as well as the Senate Banking Committee. In response, we have received widespread assurances from members of the Senate and their staff that they do not intend to tip the scales unfairly in any final deal, though we remain vigilant. The respect NAFCU enjoys on Capitol Hill and with the Administration comes from not just being a passionate defender of credit unions, but also recognizing that politics is the art of the possible. That is a careful balancing act, admittedly, but it is one at which NAFCU constantly excels in order to protect the interests of our member credit unions and their members.

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